Okay, it looks like the review is going to turn into a three-parter, mostly because it is absolutely impossible to create characters for seven people, using only two books, with a wholly unknown gaming system in anything even approximating a reasonable amount of time.
Last Thursday Loree from the Girl Game came over and we sat down to make her character for Unhallowed Metropolis. It took us about an hour and a half, mostly because I had to keep looking stuff up. The point system for Attributes, Skills and Qualities is pretty straight forward. In feel, it is quite similar to GURPS, where you have Impediments you can take in order to give you more points for Qualities. These read much like Advantages and Disadvantages. The main difference from GURPS being that you may not use the points from Impediments for anything other than Qualities.
To begin with, everyone has one level in every Attribute. You get 25 points for raising your Attributes and they are spent like this: To raise an Attribute from 1 to 2 costs 2 points; to raise an Attribute from 2 to 3 costs 3 points. Basically, it costs the amount of the level you hope to attain to increase the level. Human Attributes top out at 5. Any points you have left over can be doubled and spent on Qualities.
Skills are bought from a pool of 25 points as well, and they are spent the same way. It costs the amount of the level you hope to attain to buy the Skill up. The pre-established character concepts have Skills that you get automatically at certain levels. And for some Skills, for each level you have it, you also get a Stunt in that Skill. It sounds rather more complicated than it really is. Basically for every level you have in, say, Pistol you get a nifty thing you can do with pistols.
Human characters begin with a point of Corruption in one of the Paths.
Then you spend points on Qualities and Impediments to round out your character, buy stuff with the money that comes with your character concept, and come up with backstory.
Friday, everyone showed up and after a flurry of gift-exchanging (we have a tendency to buy each other stuff just because it reminds us of the person in question) and food prep (roast chicken, cheese-stuffed dates wrapped in bacon, Dal (probably spelling it wrong), potato-leek soup, calamata olive and whole wheat breads, gingerbread cupckakes and a pumpkin trifle… oh, and fresh guacamole and chips) we got down to making characters for everyone else. On a side note, we welcomed the newest member of the group, Lisa. The kitties thank her for the hand-knitted kitty toys.
There are six character type templates: Aristocrat, Criminal, Dhampir, Doctor, Mourner and Undertaker. In our group we have one Dhampir (half-vampire), two Mourners, one ex-Mourner/Aristocrat, one Doctor, one Undertaker, and one Criminal/Manservant. One of the girls was out sick, so we’ll add her later. Currently everyone except Jilli and I have their books on order. We got most of the characters, or at least the concepts, fleshed out pretty well. Or at least they know what they want to be and where in the book they need to look to figure it out. There’s going to be a bit of Skill and Trait-juggling at the beginning of the next session to round everyone out.
The character generation isn’t difficult, but I think most of us were struck by a great big case of “Oooooo, shiny!” while trying to figure out what we were going to do. Or rather they were; I was just struck by shiny every time I happened upon something else really neat while looking for applicable rules. This gamebook is not for the easily-distractable.
Another plus that is a minus to creating characters in a timely fashion is that the creators urge you to come up with your own skills and qualities to fit your characters. This can be a problem with some people. It can be a little too much freedom. Sometimes too many choices are as bad as not enough choices, although we did appreciate the freedom to come up with concepts like Jilli’s ex-Mourner/Aristocrat, or Kate’s Criminal/Manservant. And I think those two character concepts are brilliant, with a phenomenal amount of potential.
This group is big on backstory for their characters. Seriously, if you ask any one of them why their character behaves, thinks, or dresses some way, they will have an answer for you right off the bat. And the setting for this game, coupled with the fact that most of us really dig on Victoriana in the first place, means I’m going to be seeing some in-fucking-credible backstories and character histories. Have I mentioned lately how lucky I am to have these girls? Seriously, Jilli showed up with no idea what she wanted to play at all and, within about half an hour, had come up with an ex-Mourner who had had to leave the order because the rest of her family had died off and she needed to remarry to continue the family line.
So, that’s my basic review of the character gen process: it can be a little involved when dealing with the “ooh, shiny” syndrome, but it’s fairly straightforward, and not at all difficult for my rule-challenged ass to figure out with just the book to guide me. And you also get a look at what sort of spread we put on for gaming around my place.
The next Girl Game is November 9th, so hopefully after that I’ll be able to tell you how it plays and how well the combat mechanics work.
Also, next weekend is AmberCon NW in Portland, OR. Odds are good this column will be late as I intend to be drunk and/or gaming for five days. I can’t wait. I’m running two games and playing in four or five others.